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08/01/97 JANET SERVINO AND JAMES J. SERVINO v.

August 1, 1997

JANET SERVINO AND JAMES J. SERVINO, II
v.
THE MEDICAL CENTER OF DELAWARE, INC., VINCENT VENDETTI AND JAMES T. HULINGS



William T. Quillen, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Quillen

Letter Opinion and Order on Post-Trial Motions

(1) Defendants The Medical Center of Delaware, Inc.'s and Vincent Vendetti's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law

(2) Defendants The Medical Center of Delaware, Inc.'s and Vincent Vendetti's Motion for Remittitur and/or New Trial

(3) Plaintiffs' Bill of Costs

(4) Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorneys' Fees

Before the Court are four post-trial Motions: (1) Defendants The Medical Center of Delaware, Inc.'s and Vincent Vendetti's *fn1 Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law; (2) Defendants The Medical Center of Delaware, Inc.'s and Vincent Vendetti's Motion for Remittitur and/or New Trial; (3) Plaintiffs' Bill of Costs; and (4) Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorneys' Fees. These Motions have been presented to the Court in accordance with a stipulated briefing schedule. For purposes of conceptual clarity, the Court will discuss these Motions in the order in which they are listed above, rather than the order in which they were filed. *fn2

I. MOVING DEFENDANTS' MOTION

FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW

A Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law under Superior Court Civil Rule 50 does not permit the Court to weigh the evidence or Judge the credibility of witnesses, and it requires that the evidence be viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. When the Court is faced with a renewed Rule 50 motion after the jury returns a verdict, it must tread carefully, as evidentiary weight and witnesses' credibility traditionally are matters within the jury's purview.

The Moving Defendants take the positions that no reasonable jury could have found in Plaintiffs' favor based on the evidence presented at trial and that the jury did not understand the charge relating to the Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claim. The positions are without merit. The jury sat through several days of testimony from both the parties and several non-party eyewitnesses. Moreover, the jury was given a detailed charge on Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claim, a charge which explained to the jury that a peace officer is permitted to use a reasonable amount of force and explained to the jury some factors that may be considered in determining the reasonableness of the use of force. The jury heard the testimony, considered it, and found Vendetti's use of force to lack the necessary element of reasonableness. As this Court noted at trial, it has never, to its recollection, tried a case in which the respective versions of the facts by admittedly participating persons were more diametrically opposed than those offered by Plaintiffs and Defendants in this case. Credibility was the issue, the issue was resolved against the Moving Defendants, and the evidence clearly permits such a result. The Moving Defendants' Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law is DENIED.

II. MOVING DEFENDANTS' MOTION

FOR REMITTITUR AND/OR NEW TRIAL

A Motion for Remittitur and/or a New Trial under Superior Court Civil Rule 59 may be granted by the trial court after a jury trial only with great reluctance. Burns v. Delaware Coca-Cola Bottling Co., Del. Super., 224 A.2d 255, 256 (1966). It is not necessary that a defendant point to some specific error on the part of the jury in its deliberations; it is enough that the verdict is "so clearly excessive as to indicate it was the result of passion, prejudice, partiality or corruption." Id. at 257 (quoting Lacey v. Beck, Del. Super., 52 Del. 526, 161 A.2d 579, 580 (1960)). See also Riegel v. Aastad, Del. Supr., 272 A.2d 715, 717-18 (1970). The verdict will not be set aside unless it is "so grossly excessive as to shock the Court's conscience and sense of Justice; and unless the inJustice of allowing the verdict to stand is clear." Riegel, 272 A.2d at 717-18; Storey v. Castner, Del. Supr., 314 A.2d 187, 183 (1973); Mills v. Telenczak, Del. Supr., 345 A.2d 424, ...


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